Links and a comment about All Romance Ebooks

This morning I spent a bit of time reading up on the All Romance Ebooks closing. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I’ve decided to ignore the settlement offer of .10 on the dollar for the $780 I’m owed. On the other hand, I’m still undecided* if I’ll bother pursuing the issue, because I know how that will interfere with my ability to concentrate on what’s important to me in 2017. The world is full of thieves, but it’s also full of really good people, and I just don’t know that I have time to bother with the thieves for that amount of loss. If it had been more money, my reaction I’m sure would be different. But I admit to a feeling of apathy about the money, and maybe that’s a sign that I really do need to concentrate on other things for the moment.

Besides, by not taking the settlement, until or unless ARe goes into bankruptcy, they’ll continue to owe me that money and I’ll continue to be able to go after it at a later date.

Here are some links related to the issue:

December 31, 2016 (Kristine Kathryn Rusch @ Patreon) Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future: Part One

December 30, 2016 (Writer Beware) All Romance eBooks’ Sudden Closing: Many Questions, Few Answers

December 30, 2016 (BlogCritics) Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

December 29, 2016 (BlogCritics) Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors

December 28, 2016 (The Digital Reader) All Romance eBooks is Shutting Down (I’m the unattributed quote! I don’t remember ever being quoted before, so that’s funny.)

December 28, 2016 (Romance Writers of America) All Romance eBooks Closing Dec. 31

In several comments and articles, people mention the site being down, but I haven’t had any problems getting into ARe’s website. The first day there was a bit of slowness, but it has come up every time for me since. And of course, I downloaded my spreadsheet of sales the moment I received the email and it matched the monthly reports I download, so nothing had changed for me as some people have reported happening to them. In fact, I’ve just gone and made a screenshot now and it still shows the same amount due.

If I come across any more interesting news about it, I’ll update this post instead of writing a new one.

*In the time since I posted this, I’ve decided to accept this loss and move on. I just don’t believe I’ll ever collect enough to make it worth my time or energy to even try. Now that 2017 is here, I’m turning my attention to making 2017 an awesome year for my writing and my income.

All Romance Ebooks is closing, and despite losing money I’m owed, I’m not that sad about it

As a general rule, I prefer to not spend a lot of my time letting negative thoughts go round and round in my head, mostly because I tend toward obsession and I don’t want to obsess over negative thoughts!

So here are some not so negative things about the All Romance Ebooks closing.

I’m going to shave anywhere from 1 to 3 hours off my total publishing time for every book I publish.

  • 5 to 10 minutes to make a wider cover (1:1.5 vs. 1:1.6) that I have to shrink to 200 x 300
  • 30 to 60 minutes formatting a copy of my master book file for PDF
  • 5 minutes to generate a custom sized cover image for the PDF file (because I always forget to export this image when I’m exporting my usual sizes)
  • 10 to 20 minutes importing my EPUB from Jutoh into Calibre, making some tweaks, and exporting as a MOBI
  • 30 minutes actually publishing the files to ARe

If there are issues, or I get caught up in what I’m doing, all these things can take longer. :)

And now I don’t have to do any of those things!

I need only EPUB files and my Word file for everywhere else. Smashwords uses doc files instead of docx, but I use the same file, make a quick save as doc, add one line to note it’s the Smashwords edition, and save again. I do nothing else to my file for Smashwords.

So getting rid of ARe is a real boon to my process.

One more vendor who pays only quarterly is gone.

I hate having to deal with payments like that in my sales spreadsheet, because it’s monthly, and ARe is always off by pennies and I have to make adjustments that annoy me because they aren’t right.

My cover design process just got easier!

I don’t have to worry about making my covers wide enough for the 1:1.5 200 x 300 covers I needed for ARe.

I’ve been designing my covers to the 1:1.6 ratio from the beginning and I like them. That size looks best to me on all my differently sized reading devices and apps, but I always had to make the 1:1.5 covers for ARe because I couldn’t stand stretching the covers and making them look misshapen.

In fact, I’m thinking about using this opportunity to revisit my cover template.

I’m pretty happy about all these things, to be honest. :)

Derailed from writing yesterday by All Romance Ebooks news

All Romance Ebooks (aka Omnilit) is closing and I received the notice yesterday. So instead of writing I spent the day inactivating my books, removing links to them from my author websites, adjusting my sales spreadsheet, and reading reactions to the news.

This led me to doing my receipts and bills which is something I usually do on Tuesdays after my bank posts weekend transactions but didn’t do this Tuesday because I was sick. Then I caught up the accounting for my writing business because I’m going to be out about $780 because of ARe’s closure.

They’re offering to settle to avoid bankruptcy and legal action but I’m undecided.

Accept $0.10 on the dollar?

That’s $78 in lieu of the $780 that I’m owed. Knowing I can sue is worth $78 to me and $0.10 on the dollar is ridiculous.

But my cost benefit analysis tells me I should take the settlement because I won’t recoup the money owed and the stress of suing would not be good for me and my writing.

If I had the money, I’d sue for the principle of the thing, but 2016 has not been my best year. I didn’t publish enough and what I did publish wasn’t the stuff I can count on to make good money.

Priorities, huh?

Maybe I’ll get them right in 2017.

Writing to market is a verb

Dean Wesley Smith has put up some good blog posts lately about writing and artistic freedom and the writing to market craze. Of course, one of the first things that happened were several comments by people who wanted to clarify exactly what they believe writing to market is: finding that intersection between what you love and what is likely to sell better. That’s like, duh, but it’s become the big “writing to market” meme that isn’t really real.

Here’s why: If you love something and you’re debating between two equally strong ideas, anyone with any self-awareness at all is going to choose the one that could put more money in the bank. But here’s the catch: It’s also very possible you’ll be completely wrong and the one idea won’t sell any better than that other idea you had. But since both ideas were pulling at you equally hard, it’s no big deal because you would have written one or the other no matter what. In this world, all is good, whether that idea gets you more sales or not.

So why’d I call it a meme that isn’t really real? Because people are co-opting the words “writing to market” to mean something it does not mean. Writing to market is choosing to write something because you think there’s a market for it. That’s really all it means. You can add all the extras to it that you want, to make it fit what you want it to mean, but it’s a pretty simple phrase. You’re writing something because you think there’s a market there.

Because.

And if you’re doing that, then you’re putting the market before the desire no matter how you pretty up the phrases. The intersection of what you love and what sells, remember?

If you limit your choices only to markets you love (as the meme tells you to), then you’re really not writing to market in any real sense at all, only claiming to.

There’s another problem with the writing to market craze—a viewpoint issue. There are two distinct ideas of what writing to market means that really aren’t compatible.

Writing to market as a verb (action). This is where I sit. I believe you have to choose to write to market. If you don’t choose, you’re just writing and if you happen to hit a market that has a lot of buyers in it, then it’s a happy accident. I happen to love genre fiction and there happens to be a really big market for it. I figure this is how I’m making my living. Some of my books have hit markets with buyers who really want to buy books like mine.

We’re the people who don’t immediately think: Hey, you can totally write what you love and write to market. We tend to believe these two concepts are completely incompatible. Like I said before, if you’re limiting your choices to markets you love, then you’re really not writing to market, you’re writing what you love and using the market as a decision point between ideas. Which, again, is kind of “duh.” Decisions are hard, especially when you’re deciding between things you really love. In fact, those might be the hardest decisions out there.

Writing to market as a noun (result). This is where a lot of the biggest proponents of the “you must write to market if you want the best chance of finding success” crowd lives.

It also includes the people who like to argue that anyone who finds any kind of success as a writer is writing to market whether they want to admit it or not.

Basically, the best that I can figure, the people who believe this second definition of writing to market believe that if you sell books, you’re writing to market whether you agree that you’re writing to market or not, because they’re treating “writing to market” as a thing that happens instead of a thing that’s done.

The big divide seems to me to be this verb/noun issue. If two people have different definitions of the term they’re arguing over, it’s no wonder there’s conflict.

For one, people like me don’t like being told we’re doing something when we know we’re not. On the other hand… well, I’ve got nothing. I don’t happen to think of writing to market as a noun, because “writing to” something is something you kind of have to do. ;)

I happen to believe that anyone who believes the second definition is kind of nuts. :D I’m also sure they’re probably thinking the same thing about me. ;)

Like I said: Incompatible viewpoints.

Disheartened by a bad book

I can’t make people like my books. I can’t really change what and how I write, or if I could, I wouldn’t want to, because then I just wouldn’t want to write. I don’t always enjoy the process of writing, and it’s the story, written the way I want it written, that carries me through when I’m feeling that way.

Writing is hard for me.

Sure, sure. There are people who’ll say that’s dumb, that writing isn’t hard, but those people? They don’t know how it feels to be me. I love making up stories, but writing them down, in some kind of coherent way, is really damn hard work. There are lots of days when I’d rather clean bathtubs all day than try to make sense of the stuff in my head and put it down in readable form.

I do the best I can with everything I write, and I do try to improve. And I recognize that not everyone is going to like what I write—especially because I write primarily for me.

All that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still disheartening when I realize I’m not writing things other people enjoy in the same way I do.

I’m pretty sure my last book didn’t hit the mark with a great many people. I had that realization after I accidentally saw a review I really didn’t need to see and went looking for evidence to support it one way or another—and it was an accident, because I never would have gone looking for it but one retailer in particular emails me reviews and I can’t stop them from doing it.

Probably not my best idea today.

What I found was that this latest book is my lowest rated book on Goodreads, by nearly a star. The thing I liked most about the book is the thing really not loved by most other readers. People do not seem to be liking this book. I’ve had a few 5 star ratings, but no reviews to go along with them, while the reviews I do have are all pretty negative.

Right now, I’m feeling like I’m just not that great a writer. My books have flaws, some of those flaws pretty major, but other than continuing on as I am, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

I’m doing the best I can. I just have to keep going, write what I write, and hope people continue to buy my books despite those flaws.

I’m not where I wanted to be

It’s been four years since I started self-publishing. I published my first story in July 2012 and I’ve never looked back. I quit my job in September of that year, lived on savings, and wrote as much as I could. I had a ridiculous amount of faith that it was going to work out, even when it really didn’t look like it was going to work out.

But it has, and I’m making a living on the money I earn from my fiction.

But now I feel stuck.

It’s been four years and I’m not where I wanted to be at this point, with either income or output. I know what to blame: My inconsistency. I don’t meet my word count goals. I can’t stick to a regular production schedule. I don’t have a regular publishing schedule.

The only thing I’ve done with any consistency is spend weeks and months struggling to keep myself writing when the doldrums hit. My latest zero word day streak ended today after 35 days.

I’ve had 145 zero word days this year. That’s already more than in any other year, and this year has 4 months to go.

I’ve got a problem, and I’m not sure how to fix it.

On the other hand, my output over the last four years is eerily consistent considering how irregular my writing schedule is.

2012: 146,821 (tracks to 291k for the year)
2013: 268,191
2014: 217,641
2015: 250,011
2016: 137,080 (tracks to 205k for the year)

Of course, if I continue to fail to write, this year could be the first year I dip below 200k for the year. I really can’t let that happen. I already feel disconnected from my writing, and I don’t like that feeling. I’m just not sure what’s going on.

I want to change this, to improve my output numbers, but at this point, I’m just not sure what it’s going to take, or if I’m capable of it. As you can imagine, this is a very frustrating time for me. I’m at a low point, and I’m very much feeling like I just don’t have that something special that drives people to exceed their limits and achieve great things.

Starting early, starting tired, but it’s got to be done

I woke up tired today. Which is a huge bummer because I really wanted to wake up energetic so I wouldn’t have to fight so hard to write this morning. I’m just… tired. I don’t really know why and I still have a bit of a headache.

I’m sure it’s all related, but for the moment, I need to set all those feelings aside and sink into my book.

I’m going to keep my sessions short this morning, and I’m not going to focus on the timer so I can ease into this. Maybe some 15 minute sessions just to have a record of time spent. No pressure. I’ll be back to post an update when I have something to report.

Praying the A/C repair people show up quickly and get my A/C sorted out before evening. (Supposed to be an all-day job, according to what I’ve been told. My biggest fear is that they won’t finish today. That would make me ridiculously sad.)

Eh. Forget that. I’m sad already. The new pen name book is doing about what I expected: nothing much. I started that pen name to do some pricing experiments, and yet I’ve fallen right back into my groove and done no real experimenting at all. And that genre? Probably can’t support the pricing scheme I’m using. I’m going to have a make a decision on that, but I feel weird about changing the price so soon after publishing, because I have sold 6 9 copies at the $6.99 price. But since I have zero intention of running ads or anything of the sort on the pen name at the moment, the books are just not going to do anything more than what they’re doing if I don’t change something. The smart thing to do here would be to get the next book out within 30–60 days, and ha ha ha, that’s a total laugh. I have too many books due for my primary pen name to even contemplate that.

And… this sent me off to create a spreadsheet to calculate just how it would be possible, and I’ve had to face the fact that it’s very possible, if I were able to stick to writing 98,333 words a month, which I’m supposed to be doing. Gah. Today is not the day to stare my failures in the face. It’s too depressing when I’m already bummed.

But yes, if I wrote approximately 3,233 a day (3,933 a day with my 5 publishing days off a month), I could have the next pen name book done in—get this—about 47 days, and that’s after completing three other books first. I’m so disgusted with myself right now, because now I know it’s possible, but I know the chance of me successfully reaching and maintaining 98,333 words a month is… not good.

Why does this feel so hard sometimes?

I make it hard. That’s why.

Time to just get back to focusing on getting my 5 hours / 3,933 words a day in, and let the rest fall into place.

Editing and proofreading finished!

Finally, I finished reading the last section of the book this morning, and the edits for that bit were super quick. I actually like the book much more than I remember thinking back when I finished it! :D

But it’s been more than a month since I finished the book, so I guess that makes a difference. :)

So, now I’m onto formatting and publishing. I need to finish all that today. :o

Also, I’m still trying to decide if I want to go back into KDP with this pen name or not. I pulled the book out when the last renewal came up, in anticipation of making sure both books were either in or out, on the same time line.

This is the second pen name book, and I’m not expecting great things from it, not after a wait of nearly a year since the last book came out. :o

So: do I want to put the book into KDP?

  • In favor of KDP
    • Time saved by publishing only at Amazon (about a day)
    • First book was in KDP, so I might see better results for second book if it goes in for at least a little while
  • In disfavor of KDP
    • The first book will be a new book on all vendors other than Amazon, so I’ll have two new books on those sites
    • I like my books being available in lots of places
    • I don’t like being paid by page reads. Reminds me too much of the rip-off that is Google Adsense, etc: big companies taking advantage of small publishers to make big money and share only a pittance with the person responsible for the actual content. Amazon’s page read program isn’t that bad, but it feels bad.

Hmm. I’ll have to decide, but I can finish the formatting first!

Finally, do I want to continue with a pricing experiment (which is one reason I created the pen name) or do I just want to price at $6.99?

Both questions I need answers too by the end of the day today.

Now here’s some accountability for today’s activities. (I’ve decided I really like using lists for this stuff, no idea why.)

  • 11:29 am
    • Time to format my Word docx, will try to finish before I stop for lunch today.
      • Stopping at 12:30 pm with only the table of contents to finish. The other formatting only took so long because I was puttering with my styles and updating the formatting of the first book in the series.
  • 4:10 pm
    • Starting on the table of contents
    • Finished shortly thereafter
  • Worked and reworked the blurbs (descriptions) for the current book and the one before too many times to count before I came up with something I really liked. Two hours at least, although I didn’t really keep up.

Uh, I gave up. It’s just been ridiculously hot in here this afternoon/evening, with 90° Fahrenheit and sun outside, making it hard to cool down at the computer. I’ll get back at it in the morning when it might be at least a little cooler. (Did I say they’re finally coming on Tuesday to fix the A/C? Yay!)

Also, I got distracted by a movie I didn’t intend to watch to the end while I ate supper. But it was lovely and wonderful and I couldn’t turn it off. Consider this a rec for The Age of Adalind. I loved it!

Supper was frozen blueberries, fresh cherries, and plain Yogurt and just enough honey to make it sweet (makes a really cold desert), a peach, an orange, and some strawberries. Too much fruit, I know. But I’m not cooking in this heat. Forget that.

Anyway, I’ll move on to generating my EPUB tomorrow and publish sometime after that.

The truth is, I haven’t decided on the KDP or pricing issue anyway, so I’ll make a commitment on those tonight. Then I’ll get up and get this stuff done, so I can get back to writing, ASAP.

Now, off to bed so I can be up early enough to get some windows open and get this house cooled off before facing another 90° day.

About yesterday, book covers, a sleepless night, and work

I started working on some book cover practice yesterday and got sucked in so I missed my last writing block.

I did a lot of thinking yesterday about some decisions I needed to make about covers. I’ve hired out the latest cover for one of my series. I’m so ambivalent about having done that that it’s driving me crazy. I committed, though, and I’m going to see it through.

The plan was to get the one cover, decide if I was ready to use it, then order the entire series redesigned. But the cover didn’t fit the book. It did, however, seem well-suited to the next one. So I had to decide if I wanted to commit to double the cost for two covers. In the end, I decided to go ahead. So I’ve actually commissioned two covers in that series at this point.

I probably shouldn’t have, because I’m still not sure I’m actually going to use the covers. But I want to use them. And how does that make sense, huh?

I think it’s because: (1) I like being in complete control of my publishing schedule. I can’t quite do that if I have someone else responsible for the covers; (2) I have certain expectations for how all of my covers work together and getting something from the designer means either I have to be very specific about my wants (maybe too specific to be easy to work with) or I’ll have to redo all my other covers to consolidate the branding. I’ve already run into a few issues, changed my mind about something, and now am not sure the designer is going to deliver something I’m going to be satisfied with.

In the end, I’ll just consider it a learning expense if that happens and I’ll use my own covers. (Let me be clear: the cover draft I’ve seen from the designer is great. That’s not the kind of satisfaction I’m talking about above.)

Just last night I was reminded of something I’ve said I believed (but maybe didn’t really believe, because I actually found myself surprised). I asked for and received some feedback on a few of my own covers (all variations for the same book) and surprise, surprise, it wasn’t the one that looked the most professional to me that got called the most eye-catching. That surprised me, to be honest. I thought one cover in particular was much stronger than the others, and one was much weaker, and yet the comments didn’t bear out my expectations.

And then I asked myself: why not?

I’ve said several times that once you get a certain level of decent with a cover, it doesn’t usually pay to keep trying to make it better, because it won’t really make much of a difference. I mean, yes, I do believe there are certain covers that just have something special that can attract a large quantity of people, but those are kind of like books: they happen by chance, they have a certain spark that can’t really be analyzed and recreated except on superficial levels. Then you hope for the best.

The only thing important after reaching “good enough to catch someone’s eye” is to signal to the right readers what’s waiting for them in the book.

So now I need to remember that—and use it to get past this horrible perfectionism that still ties me up when I’m working on a cover.

Finally, yes, I’m still off coffee and tea. But something’s got my brain working overtime, because I woke up at 2 am and couldn’t go back to sleep because of too much brain activity. Or maybe it’s the time change still screwing with me. Who knows? The end result is that I’m exhausted today and have a headache from a sleepless night, and I don’t really care why. I was miserable from 2 to 6.

Tuesday’s session log

Minutes Words Session WPH
40 515 515 773
40 766 251 377
40 1,157 391 587
40 1,654 497 746
160 Total minutes
1,654 Total words
620 Total WPH

My pace was down and I can’t really explain why, but I’m hoping I’ll do a bit better today. It’s 12:04 pm, though, and I haven’t even looked at my book this morning, so we’ll see.

Believe it or not, I’m making fewer typos than usual, despite the lack of sleep, and my words are flowing nice and fast.

It might be a good day to write, in spite of everything. :D

Schedule is a suggestion, not a rule

This morning, I couldn’t seem to get started on my writing, and after thinking it over a bit, I decided that maybe I just had too much on my mind. I have an account at Dreamstime for stock photos and had signed up for a 5 images a month subscription in late December (usually I just buy credits) and it was set to renew later tonight. I didn’t want it to renew, but I couldn’t cancel it without downloading the images that had rolled over into this month or I’d have paid for January and February for nothing. :o

So I decided to get that taken care of. It took me a long, long time to pick out images!

In the end, I cancelled that subscription but decided that using credits isn’t going to be economically sound if I publish as much as I want to this year (if!), and I chose to buy their much more robust 150 images a month subscription instead.

Yes, it’s quite a bit more money. But 150(!) images a month, and I can download all in one day if I want (some stock sites won’t let you do that, instead imposing a daily download limit in addition to the monthly limit), and that means I don’t have to be so picky with images—the new subscription knocks the cost down to less than $1 each. With credits (or through the subscription I’ve been using for the last two months), those same images cost me about $8 each.

I’m going to spend a couple of months picking a wide selection of images and then see what I’ve got. But it’s a good deal and I need the stock if I’m going to keep trying to learn to design better covers for my books. :)

Now, with that many images at my disposal, I’m really looking forward to my cover design practice. Lots of great images to play around with without spending a fortune buying up credits—and I don’t have to spend time using comp images and then redo all my work when I hit on a clever design I want to use for real. :)

I didn’t end up getting any writing done today, and I’ve had to remind myself: the schedule is a suggestion, not a rule. My ultimate goal is 28 hours a week of timed writing and 22,630 words. I can have days where I just have to do other things.

See you back here tomorrow for some make up writing. :D

 

December has become my best sales month

I didn’t think December would make it, not with how quickly sales slowed down toward the end of the month, but it does now appear that December has become my best earning month to date for my self-publishing business (highest revenue and most units sold). The numbers are preliminary and do not include my international sales because I don’t know what they’ll come to once currency conversion happens.

If I had wanted to make this claim a few days ago, I could have, but I wanted it solid, with U.S. dollars. Now it is. :)

This is one reason I’m trying so hard to write more books in the coming year. I’m very close to a milestone earnings number and I would like to reach it within the next six months.

Currently, I earn a modest full-time living off sales of my fiction.

I want more. :D

 

KBoards needs a reality check

Of course, I’m too introverted to actually say that on KBoards. :D But it’s true.

The survivorship bias is huge on the boards, because no one wants to talk about what it means to earn a living writing, and yet not be one of the superstars. Some of that is because quite often any income that falls below HUGE is met with stuff like “if you want to be average that’s all well and good but I don’t want to be average so I have to do the things that will make me not average.” It’s a terrible paraphrase, but that’s the attitude I feel like predominates the talk when writer income gets mentioned.

From Wikipedia:

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in September 2014 that:

  • U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51,939 in 2013
  • Real median household income averaged $50,781 from 1964-2013

I bolded this, because household income is not personal (per capita) income. It’s the income of everyone in the household. $51,939 yearly comes to $4,328.25 a month. This isn’t after-tax money. Oh, no. This is pre-tax.

From Census.gov:

Median household income (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014: $53,482
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014: $28,555

The per capita income is the one to look at: $28,555. That’s $2,379.58 in pre-tax money per month.

A new writer might want to make a lot more money than this in the longer term, but at the beginning of a career, to expect a whole lot more from a job that requires more skill than money to get started with seems kind of crazy.

And yet so many writers on KBoards are getting the idea that income like this, normal income for U.S. citizens, is failure.

Failure.

That’s why I titled this post the way I did. It’s just crazy to think of oneself as a failure because you aren’t a superstar.

This has been my public service announcement to all writers everywhere, especially to those just starting out.

Don’t quit when you’re just getting started because the income you’re earning is less than that of a superstar. Everybody can’t be a superstar. If that’s really your goal and you aren’t getting there, then quit, but if your goal is to just write and make a living, start with realistic expectations and go from there. Dreams are great. Pushing for more is great. But don’t feel like a failure because you’re average out of the gate. It can take time for most people to build up to better earnings in a career. This career path is no different.

So much to do! More on book covers

No restart on the writing streak last night. Today I will definitely be writing. Even though I have plans to do some other stuff too.

I stayed up way too late making those cover adjustments, but I feel like I’m starting to get somewhere with the covers. I can see a huge evolution in my skill level between the first covers I did and these last few.

I’m toying with the idea of playing with my earlier covers and not outright changing/rebranding them, just cleaning them up. That right there might be enough to make me happy with them for the time being, while I fight with myself over hiring a designer who can create something I love for them. :D

But hiring it out means less practice, and lots of practice is exactly what I need. I like designing the art for the covers, if I don’t put pressure on myself: if I needed to release this book I just finished the cover for in the next week, I’d be in a whole different frame of mind, and it wouldn’t be good for my stress levels.

Anyway, I have a lot to do and I need to get started. I want to write a lot of words today and I need to do so much other stuff too. Busy day ahead and I’m exhausted already. 4.5 hours of sleep last night isn’t going to do me any favors today!

Cover design frustrates me, but I do it anyway

Have I mentioned before that designing covers for my books frustrates me? Yes? I thought so.

I’ve been trying to learn more about all of it, but I still can’t visualize what I want and then translate that into something that makes sense. I usually have to have a really good piece of stock art to get what I want quickly. Doesn’t usually happen. I’m not good at picking stock art, because I’m not good at visualizing what I can do with it once I have it. I seem to buy licenses for all the wrong stuff and then have to try again. And again. ;)

Today, I seem to have come up with an okay design for my next release, although something’s still off about it. Still, it will be a record-breaking achievement if I only make a few tweaks to this and consider it done.* It came together so much quicker than I’m used to stuff coming together. Or maybe it just feels that way because my new “publishing days” workflow gives me an entire day for cover design and nothing else! That my dear has turned out to be a genius move for me. I feel a distinct lack of stress about this cover. Also, I have finally accepted that covers just have to be good enough not to suck and they’ll get the job done; I’m sure that attitude is helping too.**

Finally, I do want to devote some more time to tutorials, but I’ve been so focused on increasing my daily word counts that I just haven’t had the energy left for it. Nor to spend on practicing cover design.

I have no interest in doing nothing but writing; I like having hobbies, and designing my own covers would be a great one to have. But I’ve had to focus on priorities right now, which is learning how to get more words written each day without it taking me all day to do it. :D I’ll get there, and then I’ll turn my attention to become a better cover designer for myself.

I want to redo a lot of my covers, and tbh, I would like to hire it out, but every time I consider it, I think about how that will bottleneck my publishing workflow and I really can’t stand the idea. If I had unlimited money where I could get anyone at any price to do the work on my timetable and do it exactly the way I wanted, then I think it would be easier to let go. But there’s also the fact that I want to be a good cover designer. Because of these things, I always keep coming back to the idea that I just need to suck it up and keep trying. If I don’t give up, eventually I’ll learn how to design great covers myself.

*I redid the cover and then redid it again and then again. In the end, I spent three entire days on this particular cover. :o

**Apparently that attitude didn’t help after all. See note * above. :D

Addendum: I tried hiring it out and I learned a valuable lesson: hiring out doesn’t work for me, at all.

How I’m building my new pen name: Four months in

You might want to read the first post about the pen name book before you read this one because I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already said, just talk about what’s happened since the two week mark.

I haven’t gotten the next book out yet. Fact is, if you read this blog you’ll already know my production is not where I want it. I’m hopeful I’ll get the next book out in December, but it means I need to be successful in getting my word count up!

If I don’t improve my speed to publication for this series, this experiment isn’t going to teach me anything I haven’t already learned from my main pen name books. That’s because I’ve ended up not experimenting with price like I had originally intended.

I did a Kindle Countdown deal with the pen name book in mid-September and that led to a few more sales, but at reduced prices. I had it priced $ .99 for one day only and set to go up in $1 increments until it was full price again.

I’ve had some additional sales at full price too (full price being $6.99). I was getting a few reads here and there but it had really tapered off, and then for some reason on the 15th of this month, the book started to get very regular reads.

What I’m hoping this means is that this series could do well if I got more books out. I don’t know though. My experience to date with my main pen name has been that if a book doesn’t sell well right off, it won’t take off just because I’m releasing more books. They sell more, don’t get me wrong, but none of the series that didn’t start off strong suddenly sell great just because I’ve published more books in those series.

I’d love to have this series with the new pen name behave differently. :D The other view is a bit disheartening when it comes to series I love but feel I shouldn’t spend much time on because it won’t pay off in the long run.

  US UK AU IN  
Earnings
2015 07 68.71 14.79 6.96
2015 08 30.50 3.28  277.61
2015 09 61.71 1.29
Total Earnings 160.92  19.37 6.96  277.61
Sales
2015 07 11 2 1 14
2015 08 1 1 2
2015 09 28 28
Total Sales 40 2 1 1 44
KENP Reads
2015 07 4,681 2,301 6,982
2015 08 4,988 984 5,972
2015 09 6,733 386 7,119
Total Reads 16,402 3,671     20,073

So far in October, I’ve had 2 full price sales and about 7,000 pages read. There’s been absolutely nothing except for that unadvertised Kindle Countdown deal to keep the momentum for this book going, so I guess I’ve been very lucky that it hasn’t dropped to 0 all around. :D

I’ll save the next update for after I get the second book in the series out. Currently the plan is still to go three books at least before I make any judgments about this series.

An experiment with my next cover, GIMP, and Photoshop

Okay, so in only a little over a week or so, I really have to begin work on a cover image for an upcoming book. I thought I would run an experiment. I’m going to try to create the same cover in both GIMP and Photoshop and see which one I work best in. Despite being almost certain Photoshop is going to win, I’m not ready to commit to the subscription service if I don’t actually find it easier to create a cover in Photoshop. The proof will be in the real world application and not in that place in my head where I think I know something is true without having put it into practice.

I’m only as good a cover designer as I’ve needed to be, so this should be fun! :)

Prioritizing an income producing series

It’s come to my attention after a bit of back of the napkin math this evening that I’ve been giving lip service to the idea of prioritizing my income producing series while I’ve been avoiding just that thing.

That back of the napkin math has shown me the error of my ways.

If I focus on writing only my income producing series instead of trying to fit in all the other series I have going (I have five!), I can earn more money with 1/3 of the writing in the next five months. Basically, I can earn more money with 3 new books than I can earn with 6, because of how significant the difference in earnings is between the books in the various series and because I would have fewer books released in my income producing series. (I realize this looks like I did my math wrong, but it has to do with the length of the books and how much I still need to write for each one. In the one scenario, it’s 80,000 words a month, in the other it’s 25,000–30,000 words a month. There were also some other books in there that I love writing but that just don’t earn.)

It was an eye opener for sure.

I have a lot of resistance to the notion of putting all my writing effort toward my one series, but I’ve come up with a mental shift that I think will make it work for me.

  • I’ll have deadlines for the books in the income producing series, but I won’t have deadlines for the other books.
  • I’ll always work on the books in the income producing series first every day, with an eye toward keeping myself on track to finish by my deadline (one book every two months).
  • If I am on track or ahead of pace, then I can devote leftover scheduled writing time to working on whatever book I want in those other series.
  • I’m going to start taking one to two days a week off the writing schedule, based on how I’m staying on pace to finish my latest book in my income producing series.
  • I won’t take off more days than that on a regular basis, even if I am getting ahead on those books. The extra writing time can go toward those books that don’t have deadlines.

The reason I’ve had misgivings about this in the past and the reason I continue to feel weird about it is that the only real way to know if I could earn more money with the books in the other series is if I could put out the books considerably faster than I’ve been putting them out. I would have to put off writing the books in the income producing series so I can devote more time to writing all these other books, but the risk associated with that is just too great. I kind of like having enough money to pay my bills. :D

If I continue to make progress on sticking to my schedule, I should be writing more than enough words to meet my deadlines for the income producing books and get some of the other books written and start having a few days a week off if that’s what I want. (Today was a rest day because I haven’t been feeling well since yesterday, so no guilt for not writing.)

How I’m building my new pen name: Two weeks in

Here I’m going to lay out my plan for building my second pen name without doing any kind of active promotion. Active promotion generally means most of the kinds of promotional activities you’ve heard of.

This post is the first I’m going to do for the new pen name. It’s part of my plan to build an empire, so that’s where these posts will go. (Yay! I’ve finally figured out something to put in that category.)

The truth is, I feel like a beginner still, but I’ve been publishing my books since July 2012, three years now. I’ve been a writer since I was a young teenager—a very young teenager. Maybe it’s impostor syndrome or just that I know there’s so much I don’t know (that I might never know) about this business, but it’s hard for me to talk to other writers without feeling like the one standing on the outside of success and looking in.

This post is an exercise in getting past all that.

I’ve learned a few things in the last three years and accomplished a lot, and I think I can make a success out of this new pen name even though it’s getting off to a slow start.

So here goes. I’m not planning to give away my new pen name for this experiment. Seriously. If you figure it out, please do not tell me you’ve figured it out. If I didn’t want to be anonymous, I would have chosen to reveal my pen name(s) right from the get go. I would never out you and I would appreciate it if you didn’t out me. ;)

Thank you in advance for being understanding about that! :D

I first published the new book a few days into July. I published at $3.99 because I had heard from a lot of other authors that that was the best price at the moment, and because experimenting with different prices was the entire reason I wanted to do a new pen name. I looked into the market and saw that this was a popular price point in the genre the new book fits into. I’m not used to pricing this low. It felt really weird.

I sold 8 copies at 3.99 in 3 days, then 0 copies for 2 days. I posted the book on my author site, but since there’s never been any activity there because, hey, no books, I don’t consider my pen name to have any kind of a platform. No twitter, no facebook, no G+ profile. I plan to keep it that way for as long as possible. I have a website for the pen name and a mailing list that readers can sign up to. That’s it.

After the 2 days of no sales, I raised the price up to 6.99. I mean, if I’m not going to get lucky with an unexpected hit right off and sales are going to be slow until the second book is done, then I might as well, right? When I use the countdown deal before my 90 days in KDP Select is over, at least the discount will look better.

I sold 3 books at 6.99 in the next 3 days and then back to 0.

At about the one week mark, I put the book into KDP Select and moved on.

It’s a 328 page book as far as KENPC goes, and there’ve been 3006 pages read as of today.

So somebody’s reading it.

Now the wait is on until I get a second book written and published.

I’ll post first month results when they’re available, but the fact is, I don’t expect much. New pen name, no promo, high price, etc. There’s just no real chance that anything of note will happen until the next book comes out.

My goal is to put out the next book in the series for the new pen name within 90 days. I’d go for 60, but a lot of stuff is going to have to fall into place to make that happen, including me cracking through to a higher level of daily word count. I’m working on it, but I’m certainly not ready to count on it. :)

The mindset of a dedicated re-reader

I think re-readers have a different mindset than people who don’t reread. I’ve begun to believe the difference in mindset comes down to why you’re reading. Are you reading to find out what happens, or are you reading to experience certain feelings? People who don’t reread often ask why those of us who do choose to. For me, it’s because I know what I’m going to feel when I read a certain book and that’s what I want.

That’s the same reason I reread my own books. I want those feelings I got when I wrote/read it the first time. Rereading is easier than writing an entirely new book so I can experience those feelings again. There’s a trade-off though. Doing the former satisfies an itch, doing the latter helps my bank account. ;D I’ve had to learn to sacrifice quick rewards for long-term benefits.

People who don’t reread often just want to know what happens in the story, and once they know, they’re done. Why revisit?

Lots of authors think it’s crazy to want to reread your own books long after they’re done and published. Some people think it’s ego driven. I can tell you right now that this has nothing to do with ego. I’m not reading my stuff and thinking, wow, what a great writer I am. I’m enjoying the story and how it makes me feel.

I happen to like rereading very much and I think the non-re-readers are the crazy people. ;)

*This post was inspired by this comment on someone else’s blog.

New editions of old books

Well, I’m struggling with this decision. I have a change I’ve made to one of my cover images to make it look a bit more like the rest of the books in the series. It’s been in print longest of all my books. I have the option to produce a new paperback edition or just revise the edition already there.

I can get a bit more time in the new releases lists if I produce a new edition. However, the only changes to the book are going to be the cover and some of the front and back matter. I don’t think there are any edits, although I’ll probably give the paperback a quick read through just to be sure (since I’m already needing to reload the files for review at Createspace).

I don’t plan to change the length of the book even with the front and back matter changes because I don’t want to have to do any major revisions to the cover’s spine—it was a pain in the butt the first time I did it (this was my first paperback) and I imagine it’ll be just as big a pain this time (this book is narrow and the spine is just within the limits that Createspace will accept).

If you have advice, I sure wouldn’t fuss if you decided to give it. :D